Purpose: Drawing upon ideas of holistic systems in conjunction with practice and complexity theories, the purpose of this paper is to provide a reflective examination of sensemaking within business networks. Design/methodology/approach: This is a conceptual paper that uses a meteorological metaphor to figuratively describe sensemaking within business-to-business relationships. To address this, the authors explore holonic sensemaking practices at a local, micro-level. Findings: The weather metaphor emphasizes that local and general conditions, although qualitatively different, are mutually constituted. Consequently, local conditions must be taken seriously as they are the crucible of experience where sense is made in the moment and in particular spaces involving specific people. The suggestion is that any failure to account for these “emic” conditions is partial and flawed. The authors propose that an emphasis upon general conditions and nomothetic theories centered on cognitive generalizations has confined sensemaking theorizing. In particular, local sensemaking realities, which are characterized by embodied, communicative and cognitive practices, has been somewhat overlooked. Research limitations/implications: The main implication is that there should be greater attention to process constituted by an equal focus on sub-processes of embodied sensing and semiotic sub-processes of talking sense, along with the already strong emphasis upon cognitive sensemaking but with greater attention to local activities. As processes of embodied perception, discourse within atmosemiospheres and cognitive sensemaking are qualitatively different, the authors argue for methodological diversity which should enable investigation of these inter-animating sub-processes more comprehensively and with greater equanimity. Practical implications: In industrial marketing and purchasing (IMP) terms, this means placing the spotlight on the activities component in the actor-resources-activities model. The implication is that there is a need to educate networkers in improvization and bricolaged use of their bodies, communication and minds for concrete, local and practical contexts and ease off on theorizing. Originality/value: The authors explore the consequences of examining embodied and communicative sensemaking’ influences at micro-level mean, followed by an examination of how sensemaking within the IMP tradition has predominantly focused upon macro-level cognition in contrast to sensemaking more broadly, which has incorporated micro-level sensemaking including embodied, communicative influences alongside cognitive effects. The authors conclude with exploring the implications of a meteorological metaphor for research and practice.

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Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Sprott School of Business

Lowe, S. (Sid), & Rod, M. (2018). Weathering contextual activities and situated sensemaking. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing. doi:10.1108/JBIM-06-2017-0155